Not long after Disney CEO Bob Iger appeared on Good Morning America to speak about the new $52.4 billion deal with Fox, 21st Century Fox executive chairman Rupert Murdoch spoke about the deal with Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo.
“Why sell these entertainment properties at this point in time?” asked Bartiromo.
“There’s a lot of change coming. People watch television differently, not necessarily news or business, but definitely entertainment differently,” said Murdoch. “We’re seeing that with the emergence of new companies, Silicon Valley is now beginning to spend tens and tens of billions of dollars on entertainment programming…we have a company that can go direct-to-consumer in a big way.”
Bartiromo also brought up Fox’s 39 percent stake in Sky, and asked Murdoch if he expects 21CF’s deal to acquire the rest of the European cable company to close before the Disney deal closes.
“We’re hoping to, and expect to in the next six months, and that will increase the debt that goes to Disney,” he responded. “If it doesn’t close, and they just take what we have, I imagine they’ll decide to go make their own bid for the rest of it.”
Murdoch also told Bartiromo that he “made it a condition” that Iger would stay on to lead the new merged business to 2021.
The Murdochs then hopped on a conference call with investors during the 9 a.m. ET hour, saying the separately-traded company would be called “New Fox,” (for now) and would consist of the news networks, Fox broadcast networks, Fox TV stations, FS1 and FS2, the Big Ten Network.
Fox wants to keep the its LA studio on Pico Boulevard, where many of its broadcast studios and offices are.
“The ‘New Fox’ will be a growth company centered on live news, sports brands and the Fox broadcast network,” said the eldest Murdoch. “We will provide content and news relevant to viewers that will always be valuable.”
Murdoch brought up Fox News, calling it “the longtime leading cable news network, the No. 1 cable network, and the strongest brand in all of television.”
He continued: “We have lost some of our stars, but lost none of our audience.”
When asked about any possibility of a reunion with News Corp, the eldest Murdoch said ” we haven’t thought about combining with News Corp, but if we ever do, it would be a long long ways away.” On Bartiromo’s program, he said, “I don’t know, ideally yes, but that’s years away. We’ll have to think about that.”
On the investor call, Murdoch also said he doesn’t see any regulatory problems when it comes to this deal, “although you never know what Justice will come up with.”
21CF CEO James Murdoch reiterated comments his father made on Bartiromo’s program about how the family expects the long-awaited deal with Sky will get the thumbs up prior to the close of this transaction with Disney.
Iger says he will be talking with James Murdoch in the coming weeks about his future with Disney. Older brother Lachlan Murdoch will likely remain with Fox.